The most liberating thing we can do for ourselves is to let ourselves feel what we’re feeling.
To cry when we feel sad, to feel angry when we’re mad, and to feel fear when we’re scared.
We have this problem in our culture where we think there’s something wrong with feeling uncomfortable emotions. We’ll do almost anything not to feel them. We have all sorts of “healthy” and unhealthy coping mechanisms to avoid them.
It’s as if we believe everyone should always be polite and calm and happy and “together” all of the time. (Especially ourselves.)
I’ve spent years consciously cultivating an ability to sit with myself during uncomfortable emotions and still I feel the knee-jerk reaction, at times, to do anything but just be there with them, to feel into them.
But we have to feel into them because we can’t get rid of them by pretending that they don’t exist. Because they do and we have them and we have them for a reason.
I’ve spent the last three years feeling into all of those dark, “scary” emotions. Pain. Fear. Heartache. Grief. Anger. Regret. Shame. The discomfort that comes from uncertainty and the unknown and realizing that I can’t control everything.
I’ve felt into my deepest pains and fears and I’ve admitted things to myself that I’d never let myself truly acknowledge before.
None of it felt good. It all felt uncomfortable.
It always feels uncomfortable.
But it also feels liberating.
Uncomfortable emotions are never going to feel comfortable. They’re not meant to. But they can lead us to greater insights and understandings about ourselves—and that is liberating.
We need to shift from believing that there’s something wrong with feeling these things—because they’re normal and natural and we’re never going to stop feeling them.
We feel emotions for a reason. When we feel angry or sad or scared, it’s because something has made us feel a certain way. And we feel a certain way for a reason. Let’s dig into that reason.
Instead of trying to pretend that we’re not feeling these things or judging ourselves for them, we need to just feel them and see what we can learn from them.
It’s one of the most natural, fluid, organic ways of being self-honest with ourselves.
I’ve read that when we numb out the “negative” emotions, we start to do the same with the positive. This is something that aligns with my experience.
I remember walking to work one day in Boston years ago. It was sunny and beautiful and I was in the most wonderful mood. I was standing at a crosswalk waiting to cross the road, and I suddenly realized how happy I felt, how good I felt—and I stopped myself. I forced myself back into “reality.”
I didn’t even let myself daydream about what I really wanted in life for most of my life because I was too afraid that to allow myself to want something and have it not come true would be worse than never wanting it at all. It’s not, of course.
We have to understand that our emotions—all of our emotions—are natural. They are normal, natural human emotions, and we feel them for a reason.
They signal to us something that we need to pay attention to. They can teach us about what we value. They can show us what’s important to us. What is okay and not okay—to us. They can show us the wounded, aching parts inside of ourselves that need attention, love, and healing.
Within each emotion lies a lesson—we just have to be willing to want to learn what that is.
It’s okay to want to be happy. It’s okay to admit that we want to be happy. It’s okay to admit that we’d prefer if we always felt happy. Because I think most of us would prefer to feel good in every single moment.
It’s also never going to happen.
It’s okay to know that we want to be happy, but it’s important to understand that we are going to feel all sorts of emotions, and many of them are going to feel really uncomfortable.
And that’s okay too.
We can learn beautiful lessons from these emotions—we just have to let ourselves feel them.
We have to understand that it’s safe to feel them.
We have to understand that, ultimately, it’s liberating to feel them.
Because it connects us more deeply to who we truly are.